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Hot Rod Bonnie

April 12, 2017
Triumph Bonneville Bobber

Good looks and a plethora of accessories is sure to win over the urban renegade

Story by Costa Mouzouris
Photos by: Alessio Barbanti, Matteo Cavadini

If you’re not familiar with the term “bobber,” look it up in the Oxford Dictionary of English, you’ll find the literal description, which is either for a float placed on a fishing line or for a person who rides a bobsleigh. What you 2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobberwon’t find is what the word has represented in motorcycling since the mid-20th century. The term was coined in the late 1940s to refer to hardtail-framed motorcycles that were stripped of all unnecessary items (some items were actually necessary, like the front brake); the fenders were cut very short, or “bobbed”; and low, flat handlebars were bolted on. And bobbers were mostly rider-only machines, uncluttered by such trivial things as pillion seats.

When Triumph introduced the completely redesigned T120 and Thruxton with an all-new, liquid-cooled parallel-twin last year, the company was certain to follow up with additional Bonneville models, and it has this year, with the Bonneville Bobber.

Retro-Bike Revival

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber reviewThe 2017 Bonneville Bobber is a custom bike unlike any other recent Triumph. Sure, like the slew of recently introduced scramblers and café racers (of which you can find examples from Triumph), the Bobber is part of the retro-bike revival that is proving popular among millennial riders, but this is one of the coolest-looking retro bikes out there. Triumph held the press intro of the Bonneville Bobber in Madrid, Spain, and we were there to ride it.
The Bobber’s styling is something you might expect from a low-volume boutique bike builder, but this is a production bike built by Triumph. It features a minimalist design with visual cues that hark back to those bare-bones customs of yesteryear, like the nearly flat handlebar, and the downward-
sloping rear portion of the frame that blends into a triangular swingarm, faithfully mimicking a rigid frame. The look is further accentuated by a tire-hugging rear fender with a solo saddle hovering above it. And that solo saddle is the only seating choice; there are no provisions to add a passenger seat or foot pegs.

Masters of Disguise

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber test rideBut it doesn’t end there. There’s a fine attention to detail that makes the bike stand out whether you’re looking at it from a distance or up close. The mechanical parts meant to be seen are emphasized (like the exposed vintage-looking battery box), while the rest of the parts are well hidden – wiring is almost completely out of sight. Although the engine is liquid cooled, you won’t see a single coolant hose. What looks like a transmission cover on the right-hand side below the seat is actually a cover that conceals the rear brake master-cylinder reservoir and the coolant overflow tank.

The riding position is more cruiser-like than standard bike, but fortunately not an extreme, foot-
forward kind of cruiser. It’s a modest reach to the handlebar, and the foot pegs are placed just enough ahead to put your knees at a right angle. The seat is adjustable fore and aft, with a range of about 50 mm, and the bracket on which it slides slopes rearward, so the seat also drops a bit as it moves back. The seat adjustment is semi-permanent, as you must loosen a couple of bolts to adjust it. The seat is low (690 mm at its lowest), so it’s a very easy reach to the ground. I only sat on a parked bike with the seat in the rearward-most position and found the reach to the handlebar too long, so I kept the seat on my test bike in its forward position and found the riding position quite accommodating for our 200 km ride. Despite its rather skimpy appearance, the seat is wide, well shaped and supportive, providing a comfy perch for the daylong ride.

Useable Power

2017 Triumph Bonneville BobberThe Bobber is powered by the same 1,200 cc High Torque six-speed twin as the T120’s, but it has a twin airbox and shorter mufflers, and is tuned to produce 10 per cent more bottom-end torque than the T120. It’s a smooth engine, with more than 70 ft-lb of torque available from about 2,800 rpm to just over 5,000 rpm,
peaking at 78 ft-lb at 4,000 rpm. That’s a very useable powerband that makes the Bobber a blast to ride in town. Switchable traction control is standard, as are two ride modes, Rain and Road. Horsepower is reduced a touch compared with the T120, by two horsepower to be exact, at 77 hp.

The mechanically assisted clutch is beginner-bike light, and the gearbox clicks into first with a light touch. First gear is surprisingly tall, requiring some clutch slipping to get going, but the torquey engine manages this…

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